Gang jailed after violent attacks in Weston
- Credit: Archant
A MACHETE-ARMED gang that terrorised people in their own homes have been jailed for almost 40 years between them.
The violent three-week rampage across Weston by Joshua Shanahan, Gary Warman and Daniel Russell was brought to an end after their victims found the courage to speak out about crimes a judge agreed were ‘staggeringly unsophisticated and illogical’.
The spree began with two robberies – one on a taxi driver on March 16 and a second at a bookmakers nine days later.
Driver Paul Haughey was throttled and threatened to be strangled when he arrived at Dumfries Place in his taxi and two men – one of which was Shanahan – made off with money.
Haughey was so traumatised he tried to commit suicide the following month, which he partly attributed to the attack.
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The following week Shanahan and Russell, armed with machetes, robbed Backhouse betting shop on the Bournville estate.
More than £1,750 was taken, leaving manager Paul Brazier unable to sleep properly for weeks afterwards.
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In a statement read in court, Mr Brazier said: “I felt I couldn’t go back and wanted to quit my job, where I worked for 12 years.
“I used to love it and I had never felt nervous at work. Now I feel petrified.”
David Maunder, defending Shanahan, said the 22-year-old’s actions were partly due to a cocaine and heroin habit he could not afford.
Shanahan, of Marconi Close, along with Russell and Warman, also took part in two aggravated burglaries within an hour on April 1, at homes owned by people they knew.
Russell, aged 23, visited the home of Lou Walters in Orchard Street at 8pm and was buzzed into the building after saying he needed the toilet.
When Mr Walters opened the door, four or five men burst in with the three hooded criminals armed with machetes but not covering their faces.
They demanded valuables and money from Mr Walters telling him they would ‘chop him up’ if he did not.
Ian Dixey, prosecuting, told Bristol Crown Court on October 28, Russell sprayed Mr Walters in lighter fuel before flicking a lighter near him shouting: ‘If you don’t give me everything, I will burn you up.”
The gang left with a £450 watch, a Playstation console, mobile phone and £35 cash.
The trio moved onto Pelican Close and were handed £1,000 of family savings by Jamal Ben-Messaoud in a four-minute episode that saw the family go from watching football on television to fearing for their lives.
Mother Michelle Ben-Messaoud said: “I thought it was a joke because I didn’t think anyone would enter my house and threaten me.
“When I realised it wasn’t, I had to plead for my life. I genuinely thought I might die.”
Mr Dixey said Zaid Ben-Messaoud received a call from a man called ‘Josh’ the following day.
The man, identified as Shanahan, said: “You need to drop the charges or else this is going to get worse. You know what happens to grasses.
“Your mum is going to get kidnapped and put in the back of a car.”
Russell, of Beach Road in Kewstoke, and Warman were arrested in Torbay on April 9. Shanahan handed himself into Weston police the following day.
In defence, Mr Maunder said: “These offences are spectacularly unsophisticated and to some extents illogical with a lack of a disguise and against people who knew them.
“The prospect of them getting away with it was slim to vanishing.”
All three criminals expressed remorse for their actions, with Mr Maunder saying Shanahan was not the ringleader for the two household attacks.
Judge Martin Picton, after hearing of lengthy criminal records for all three men, said to them: “Your actions were designed to terrorise and to stop them reporting to the police.”
Shanahan, who admitted two aggravated burglaries, two robberies and intimidating a witness, was jailed for 13 years and four months. His sentence was reduced after pleading guilty at the first opportunity.
Russell was jailed for four months longer after admitting to robbing the betting shop and both aggravated burglaries.
Warman, aged 22, was jailed for 11 years and nine months after pleading guilty to the two aggravated burglaries.